The door to major breakthroughs in human health and medical care opened in 1998 when a UW researcher first cultured human embryonic stem cells. Gabriela Cezar PhD2002 walked right on through, discovering ways to use stem cells to evaluate drug safety and create tests for developmental disorders.
While she was an assistant professor of animal sciences at the UW from 2005 to 2012, Cezar led a research team that showed that the chemicals generated by stem cells — called biomarkers —could be used to warn pharmaceutical companies about the potential side effects of new drugs. Biomarkers might also help scientists to unlock what causes birth defects or create tests to predict the onset of disease.
Academic environments, Cezar noted at the time, offer a powerful opportunity for collaboration, and “more freedom to create, to discover, and to test these ideas.”
In 2007, Cezar co-founded Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Inc., to further develop drug-screening methods. The nascent company, which she named to represent stem cells and the stamina of the human body, garnered $1 million in aid from the state of Wisconsin. “I’m a very pragmatic scientist,” she said, explaining that her time working in the pharmaceutical industry fed her desire to get better drugs to patients.
From The Park
The opportunity to create and innovate is an advantage that I’ve always loved.
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Dan Schaefer BS1973, MS1975, a UW professor of animal sciences, praised Cezar’s ability to adeptly network in the realms of biotechnology and biobusiness, and to “[carry] our name back into these circles with a very modern, high-impact research topic.”
Cezar speaks four languages, including her native Portuguese, and no matter where she is, she has always understood how to chase success — whether she’s leading a research lab or seeking a path to take her findings to the world. After she became CEO of Panarea Partners, a New York-based company that specializes in investment banking for health care and the life sciences, she said, “I need to understand the science, know what it takes to build a company, and understand the needs of the market.”